Tony Greenstein

Open Letter to Jill Mountford of Momentum’s Steering Committee

Tony Greenstein

Dear Jill Mountford,

Recently you and other members/supporters of the Alliance for Workers Liberty set up what is described as 'An unofficial magazine by Momentum activists'.  Those who are acquainted with the tactics of Trotskyist groups are well aware of how they operate behind nominally independent fronts or groups.  The SWP has done this for years. Clarion is no different. 

Clarion’s editorial board consists of people, nearly all of whom are or have been members of the AWL.  Almost the only one who is independent is Labour NEC member Rhea Wolfson, who is a left-Zionist.  The AWL is unique on the Left for being a supporter of Israel as a Jewish state and imperialism. [see Debate Between Tony Greenstein & Daniel Randall of the AWL]  For example, throughout the Iraq war, AWL refused to call for the withdrawal of US and British troops.  It likewise supported the presence of imperialist forces in Afghanistan and at one point, despite its anti-Islamic politics today, supported the CIA sponsored Mujahedeen. 

Michael Chessum’s Why I voted to remove Jackie Walker as Momentum’s Vice-Chair

The reason I am writing to you is that Mike Chessum, a member of the Steering Committee of Momentum and an AWL sympathiser recently wrote an article for Clarion explaining why he voted to remove Jackie Walker as Vice-Chair of Momentum. Chessum consistently misquoted what Jackie said in order to defend the way he voted.

Jackie submitted a reply and heard nothing from you for days.  I still don’t know if you are going to allow her a right of reply.  I myself submitted a reply to you and followed it up.  I have received no response. 

My response concentrates on Chessum’s inability to understand the connection between the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, Zionism and Israel.  It is the dishonest attempt of supporters of the Israeli state, including the AWL, to conflate criticism of Zionism and Israel’s barbarism with anti-Semitism which lies at the heart of the Right’s anti-Semitism witch-hunt.

Chessum says he had no alternative but to vote to remove Jackie Walker as Vice-Chair of Momentum’s Steering Committee.  On the contrary, as a socialist he had no alternative but to defend Jackie Walker from the attacks of the media and the Zionists of the Jewish Labour Movement [JLM].  Chessum employs a number of straw men to defend voting the way he did:

  • No one has suggested his vote was motivated by an attempt to stitch up factional opponents in order to protect Lansman and Momentum’s leadership. 
  • No one has suggested that Chessum’s vote is explained by a ‘Zionist conspiracy’   This is the normal Zionist and AWL caricature of their opponents arguments.
  • Chessum accepts that there was  more than ‘a grain of truth’ in the allegation that his vote was a result of pressure from the Right and the press.  Except that it is more than just a grain.  When socialists are under attack by the bourgeois press, the Labour Right and the Zionist movement, we defend them.  Period.

There was a wall to wall attack on Jackie Walker from the Sun (ANTI-SEMITISM ROW Fury as Jeremy Corbyn ally claims Holocaust Memorial Day is not inclusive enough) to The Telegraph’s "Momentum chief Jackie Walker suspended from Labour over Holocaust Memorial Day", comments which cited ‘the outspoken campaigner (as) saying she had not found a definition of anti-Semitism she could work with’ (which was more accurate than Chessum’s citation)!  The Independent reported "Momentum set to sack vice-chair Jackie Walker after Holocaust Memorial Day" comments: The Zionist rag the Jewish Chronicle, edited by Henry Jackson Society member Stephen Pollard, reported that Jon Lansman had ‘reached the end of his tether”.

The deliberate leaking to the press of the intention to remove Jackie as Vice-Chair was clearly approved of by Lansman.  It replicates the methodology of the witch-hunters of the Compliance Unit.  Chessum freely admits to this and yet he and you have no problem with this.  That you went along with this, when it was in your power to put a stop to it, is an act of betrayal. 

Chessum says, quite disingenuously, that ‘Walker is still on the Steering Committee [SC], and is being actively defended against expulsion from the Labour Party.’  Do you not understand that the very act of removing Jackie as Vice-Chair increased her chances of being expelled?  The very fact that the SC voted to refuse to oppose Jackie’s suspension is proof of this.

After Owen Smith attacked the AWL as ‘anti-Semites’ during his debate against Jeremy Corbyn, the AWL’s Daniel Randall was forced to admit that the Labour Right were ‘instrumentalising’ i.e. weaponising anti-Semitism in its attacks on the Left..  A good example of this was when Jim Murphy attempted to block Rhea Wolfson, herself a Zionist, from standing for the NEC because of her association with the ‘anti-Semitic’ Momentum.

Chessum’s suggestion that ‘none of Walker’s reported comments have been about Palestine and Israel.’ is unreal and demonstrates either ignorance or wilful blindness.  Jackie Walker’s comments about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism are intimately related to Palestine, Zionism and Israel.  ‘Anti-Semitism’ is the first defence of Zionism when Israel is accused of crimes against the Palestinians.

The Holocaust has been repeatedly used as a justification for Israel’s apartheid, its atrocities and regime of military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  The Holocaust is the primary justification for the existence of the Israeli state itself.  For example Menachem Begin, Israel’s Prime Minister, compared Yassir Arafat during Israel’s siege of Beirut to Hitler in his bunker in 1982.  According to Begin the alternative to Israel’s genocidal war was ‘Auschwitz’.  See Calling your political rival a Nazi is a time-hallowed tradition in Israel.

Israel’s Labour Foreign Minister, Abba Eban told the UN that “I do not exaggerate when I say that it [the June1967 map] has for us something of a memory of Auschwitz.”  The Green Line between Israel and the West Bank is referred to in Israel as the ‘Auschwitz border’.  Netanyahu told the 2015 World Zionist Congress that it was the Palestinian Grand Mufti who was responsible for Hitler’s Final Solution.  As Tom Segev, an Israeli historian explained, the only image of a Palestinian in Yad Vashem, the Zionists Holocaust museum in Jerusalem ‘(is) a photo featured prominently on a wall depicting the Mufti sieg heiling a group of Nazi storm troopers’.  Its purpose is to ensure that ‘the visitor is left to conclude that there is much in common between the Nazis’ plan to destroy the Jews and the Arabs’ enmity to Israel.’ [The 7th Million, p.425]  The effigy of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was dressed in Nazi uniform by his political opponents. 

On 17th September, over a week before Labour Party conference and the ‘training event’, I wrote a blog post The Jewish Labour Movement and its Political Lynching of Jackie Walker.  Even then it was clear that Jackie Walker was being set up for a new witch-hunt by those who refused to accept her original reinstatement.

Jackie spoke on 12th September alongside John McDonnell at an LRC fringe meeting at TUC Conference in Brighton.  As a result, McDonnell came under severe criticism from (amongst others) Jeremy Newmark of the JLM.  This resulted in McDonnell withdrawing from a JLM rally at which he had been due to speak.

Jackie walked into a honey trap when she attended the JLM ‘training event’ at Labour Party conference.  However, the remarks she made were not, in any way, ‘insensitive’, ‘anti-Semitic tropes’ ‘ill-informed’ or ‘a distortion of history’ as Chessum argues.

To sustain his argument, Chessum shamelessly misquotes Jackie Walker alleging she said ‘Holocaust Memorial Day should focus on other genocides as well, or non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust’   In fact she said ‘‘wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust Day were shared by all people who had experienced genocide’.   But even if she had said what Chessum falsely claims, what is anti-Semitic or offensive about it?

Zionism has consistently reserved the Holocaust as something unique to the Jews.  To Elie Wiesel to compare the Holocaust with the sufferings of others was a “betrayal of Jewish history”. [Wiesel, Against Silence, 146]. According to Prof. Yehuda Bauer Zionism’s pre-eminent Holocaust historian the Nazis only attempted to annihilate one people, the Jews: “Roma were not Jews, therefore there was no need to murder all of them.” [The History Teacher, Vol. 26, No. 3. pp. 385-386] To this day the US Holocaust Museum refuses to include the Roma victims of the Holocaust.

If you go to the Holocaust Memorial Day site and click on Holocaust you will be taken to a page that says ‘Between 1941 and 1945, the Nazis attempted to annihilate all of Europe’s Jews.’  There is no mention of the Holocaust beginning in 1939 with the extermination of the Disabled, the Euthanasia/ T-4 program, the Roma/Gypsies or any other victims.

If you click Nazi Persecution you will come to a page which begins ‘Singling out Jews for complete annihilation in the Holocaust was not the full extent of Nazi persecution.’  Although it goes on to mention other groups, they do this in the context of the ‘persecution of disabled people and gay people’.  They do not mention that the latter were also exterminated. 

Although Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur are listed underneath Nazi Persecution, it is clear that these are lesser genocides.  There is no mention of the extermination of 10 million Africans in the Belgian Congo or the estimated 14 million Africans in the slave trade.

This is why Jackie was quite right in what she said.  Chessum passed judgement over something he knows nothing about.  What he did do was to vote to restrict freedom of speech in the Labour Party and Momentum to debate these issues, which is of course what the Zionist movement wants.  In Israel free speech can cost you your liberty if you are Palestinian in Britain you get defamed and vilified.

Chessum also misquoted Jackie as saying that ‘‘Jewish schools may well not need police protection.’  There has however been a deliberate campaign to stoke up fears of anti-Semitism in Britain in order to alienate Jews from British society.  The Zionist ‘charity’, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, has deliberately inflated the threat of anti-Semitism through the use of bogus polls.  The respected Institute for Jewish Policy Research described CAA’s poll, which claimed ‘more than half of all British Jews feel that antisemitism now echoes the 1930s” as verging into ‘irresponsible territory’.  There is no reason to believe that Jewish schools are under more of a threat than for example Muslim schools. 

Chessum also misquotes Jackie as saying that ‘there was no definition of anti-Semitism that she could agree with’.  In fact she said that she had ‘heard no definition of anti-Semitism she could work with’ at the ‘training event’.  That was a statement of fact.  The JLM ‘trainer’ had been pushing the EUMC Working Definition of Anti-Semitism which conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.  It is a discredited definition and in 2013 it was removed by the Fundamental Rights Agency from its website.  EU drops its ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism The recent Home Affairs Select Committee Report, which called for anti-Zionism to be criminalised, has tried to resurrect the Working Definition under a new name.  There are a number of definitions of anti-Semitism.  I prefer the [hostility%20%20to]simple ‘hostility to Jews as Jews’ or ‘hostility towards Jews as not Jews’ [Patterns of Prejudice, Vol. 37 No. 2 June 2003]. 

Jackie attended what a ‘training session’ not ‘a semi-public event’.  Jackie Walker not only had the right, but the duty, to raise questions since the definition of anti-Semitismis contested.  In Chessum and the AWL’s simple universe there is only ‘left anti-Semitism’ and ironically they too have been caught up by it!  Jackie was not at the event as Momentum Vice-Chair but as an individual.  She was of course targeted as Momentum’s Vice Chair but it is to your shame that instead of defending her you voted to remove her as Vice Chair.

Chessum repeats the lie, for which Jackie was acquitted, that Jews ‘were the “chief financiers” of the slave trade.’ This is a gross distortion, ripped out of a private conversation by the Israel Advocacy Movement.   If you should read my article in Open Democracy The lynching of Jackie Walker you will find that Jackie also said ‘I will never back anti-Semitism but neither am I a Zionist’.  She then went on to say, in a subtle and nuanced discussion, which the AWL’s crude polemics are incapable of understanding, that ‘many Jews, my ancestors too, were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade… so who are the victims and what does it mean .  We are victims and perpetrators, to some extent by choice.  And having been a victim does not give you a right to be a perpetrator.’  By missing out ‘many’ Chessum suggested that Jackie was saying that Jews as a collective were the chief financiers of the slave trade.    

Chessum and the AWL joined in the witch hunt of Jackie Walker on the basis of false allegations that she had said that ‘Jews were responsible for the slave trade and an “African holocaust”.  To the Zionists, a Black-Jewish anti-Zionist is unacceptable.  Jackie has been in receipt of a torrent of abusive tweets, most of which question how a Black person can be Jewish.

The JLM is not a Jewish section of the Labour Party.  Jewish anti-Zionists like myself cannot join it.  It is the British wing of the racist Israeli Labour Party, whose leader Isaac Herzog recently declared that his nightmare was waking up to a Palestinian Prime Minister in Israel.  Who needs the Right when we have Isaac Herzog?  Herzog also recently declared that he wanted to dispel the false impression that the ILP were ‘Arab Lovers’ Herzog slammed for remark about ‘Arab lovers’  Imagine if someone had said their nightmare was waking up to a Jewish Prime Minister in this country?  Or talked of ‘Jew lovers’?  The National Front used to accuse us of being ‘nigger lovers’.  This is the real racism that is the currency of debate in Israel that the AWL and Chessum defend by omission. 

Chessum and you Ms Mountford have comprehensively misquoted Jackie Walker.  It is incumbent upon you to reinstate Jackie as Vice-Chair of Momentum with an apology offered for the stress and distress it has caused her.

As Dr Brian Klug, a Fellow of Oxford University observed, in a lecture (which the Zionists tried to cancel) at the Jewish Museum in Berlin on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, ‘a label can turn into a libel when it is pinned on the wrong lapel. Antisemitism has rightly been called a ‘monster’.  But false accusations of antisemitism are monstrous too.  For all these reasons and more, the word matters a great deal.’


is a founding member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a member of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods.